tv America Tonight Al Jazeera June 30, 2015 10:00pm-10:31pm EDT
tion of al jazeera, thanks for watching "america tonight" is next see you again in an hour. [ ♪♪ ] on "america tonight", the courageous 12. >> we could not work in the white neighbourhood. we were unable to arrest white. we could not take the exam for program owes. moot "america tonight"s sara hoy with a police case on discrimination 50 years ago.
also - burning questions - is history repeating itself. >> it's trying to intimidate us to get back in our place, that's what it's all about, as i read this historical book - stay in your place. thanks for joining us i'm leonardo mayer in for joie chen -- adam may in for joie chen. days after the slayings at at south carolina church, federal investigators are looking at crimes. church fires, history repeating in a horrific way. african-americans joint in prayer have become the targeted. joie chen is in the deep south with a look at what is raising alarms. here on the country roads of the missouri delta, they and fear
have never been that far apart. here where cotton is king. soy beams and problems along the highway in the heat of the summer the church has been the shelter and salvation of the hard lives lived in the southern sun. >> why is each the smallest church in the community so important, such an important part of the black community in the south. >> in the black churches it is the center of the community, it's the social structure. we live in connection with the church and so we become the church. and that makes the black church significant. >> an attack of any kind on a church. what does that mean to the people. >> it's an attempt to relate to the religion and community.
it's to discourage you, and to - and destroy the community center of social structure. which is surrounded by the church. >> we were not able to worship. we worship on our own at the river, on a podium so that began the centring the. yes, we can burn our building but you can't destroy our faith. >> the pastor's church is a holy site among other black churches in the south. this here is remembered as the flashpoint igniting a horrified approach of the modern civil rights movement. >> the fire was a galvanising event leading to mississippi burning. >> it ignited.
it was a catalyst. >> defiant, even in the face of threats by white supremacists. the congregation had been determined to help teach and register african-americans to vote. >> they were targeted for the burning, because they wanted to host a freedom school. they wanted to keep us oppressed. >> the church burnt to the ground, was in the just a message to the congregation. it lured three young civil rights workers to the community, and in the end it led james cheney andy good win and picking to their deaths and their bodies tortured and killed on property owned by a local clansman. it wasn't the first attack on a church to be a key movement. the death of four little girls
in a firebombing at the 16th street baptist church this birmingham horrified the nation. how do you describe attacks on churches. i mean how do you categorise them? >> what's been going on you have to go from anger to terrorism. because it's trying to intimidate us, to get back in our place. that's what it's all about. as i read this historical books, stay in your place, and so it is a form of terrorism. i would think. but it's born out of hatred. >> the same hatred that raged in the sanctuary of an historic house of worship in charleston carl your carolina, and in the days after destroying churches and south carolina and george ya.
no evidence of a hate crime or links to group. if the authorities can never find association between hate groups, crimes and these fires, you still think there's reason for concern? >> absolutely. absolutely couldn't it be a coincidence. >> of course not. >> what if there's no hard evidence connecting crimes to hate? >> there probably isn't. because that's not something you can go inside and see. the fact that it happens, and it occurs says to them that we have a problem with hate. there's something underlining problem here, and we need to recognise that and disorge it. her hope is that the sacrifices in charleston and the loss of the churches will bring
processes to a church for a fight that for many of the faithful is not over yet. >> when violence comes to a church, what does it say? >> it's simple - you are not attacking me or the church you are attacking the one that created the church. to me you are not attacking the church, you are attacking god. he takes it personal. >> a warning - and a reminder of justice yet to come. >> joining us now to talk more indepth about the long history of burning black churches and what it means today. author and political analyst. thank you for being with us. you posted an article on this topic today with alarming numbers that go behind the handful of burnings we have seen in the last couple of weeks. tell me more about that. >> there's a history, tragic and sad history, a shameful history
of church burnings african-american church burns. i remember in the '60 the marches, demonstrations rallies, african-american churches in with a centrepiece, a rallying point. they drew a lot of attention. they went to churches because everything else was closed to them. they game targets. during the mid '60s period for about one to two month period in 1962, you had about 8-9 black churches. rural churches burnt to the ground, and we fast-forward into the '90s, beginning 1991 and 1996 we saw something we thought passed. the still rites movements, and now we see a repeat of that. african-american churches burnt.
we are not talking 8, 9 or 10. this time over 100 churches and some of the south and north. >> then you bring up in your article that there has been more church burning in the last 18 months, we have not heard anything about this and much of the main stream media. are we complacent saying this is okay to happen. >> i wouldn't say complacent. we have to ask the question why it's under the scope. the horrendous heinous scene in charleston, where at the emanuel a.m.e. church - that true a lot of attention, and six or seven other african-american churches burnt. before that i think there was some awareness, something happening. churches are targeted. i think where the problem came in is should we classify she is as hate crimes if that's the case, we are off to the races and you'll get a lot of
attention on that. or is this pure and simple garden variety, hate to use that term arson. unfortunately what happened is many investigators, whether it's the federal bureau of investigation, the a.t.f. or local investigators - they refuse to call or even intertain the idea that these burnings could be hate crimes. racially motivated. >> is it different to the 1990s, when bill clinton went to congress asking for money to look into the route cause of this, are we doing the same? >> no clinton in the 1990s was aharmed, and asked for a million on top of what was earmarked. congress wept along with it -- went along with it. however now we are not seeing the same sense of urgency, and many will ask why?
why is this not done as it was 20 years ago. >> especially as more and more of the churches appear toe be set on fire. thank you for joining us. >> thank you coming up later, the courageous 12, and the story of leon jackson, one of the last surviving black police officers from a landmark discrimination case in florida, 50 years ago. and hot off the "america tonight" website - heroin in new hampshire, why is a women's prison a resolving door for heroin addicts. find out on aljazeera.com/americatonight.
police shot and killed unarmed teenager michael brown. after, "faultlines" travelled to missouri, where they got a look at demonstrations after brown's death and police efforts to keep them under control. [ chanting ] >> all: hand up don't shoot. hands up don't shoot. hands up don't shoot. >> reporter: the police continued to point guns at the protesters. up to this point, farce we could see, there's no sign of threat or violence. but the anger obvious the way police handled the situation grew. the gas is coming down the
police are saying we have to lee the area we have to get back from the police line. the gas is coming down now. there's more gas coming over here we'll get out of here now. they are firing cannisters of gas at us as we are running away. >> you must return to your vehicles, return to your homes. you may no longer be in the area. it is no longer a peaceful protest. you are not peacefully assembling. you must leave... >> where i come from it is about the children. every footage, tony martin michael brown reminded me of my son. that could have been my child. >> they treat us like animals. >> reporter: what do you mean? >> they break us down. as hup jms. humans. it's about us not feeling like criminals for drying found the
street. >> why are you advancing towards a peaceful protest. that means you are insighting. insight urban warfare out here. they are trained for this. >> reporter: why do you think they are firing gas? >> they are trying to get us to insight a riot. they are encroaching on our rites. [ singing ] >> we can hear the noise. the police are using an audio instrument to disperse the crowd, this is a crowd control tall. you can see the protesters are in their seats saying they are not going anywhere. seems like they are throwing flash bombs, explosions are
going off. we are not sure what the police are firing. gas is coming down. we'll get out of here. in a matter of hours the streets of ferguson went from peaceful protests to scenes out of a conflict zone. there's tear gas everywhere explosions from flash bang grenades. another one is going off now. as military vehicles advanced rubber bullets were fired. anyone on the streets, including media, was in the line of fire. the police began to tap out into the surrounding neighbourhoods with weapons pointed at people's homes. >> it looks like they are firing tear gas into the neighbourhoods. you can see the flooum of smoke.
just have no idea what they are firing at. chapt chapt as night turned into early morp, it was clear that -- morning, it was clear that divisions in ferguson were deeper and fast-forward to a new justice department report that says the military style tactics used by law enforcement were inappropriate and may have escalated the tensions in the days follow michael brown's death. while ageing that officers were upped intense pressures that -- under intense pressures that could have affected their performance, the d.o.j. outlined a fundamental lack of strategies presented in programs. the report offered suggestions improving upon 45 findings
welcome back to "america tonight". when leon jackson joined the st. petersburg police department the biggest challenge wasn't the people, it was the race is and segregated system he worked in. fern officers could not work -- african-american officers could not work around the everybody, could only patrol the black areas of town and could not arrest whites or move up in the ranks. it was so bad in 1965, 12, dubbed the courageous 12 sued the city for discrimination and
won. "america tonight"s sara hoy travels to st. pete to meet with leon jackson, one of two surviving members of the courageous 12 to here if thinks change or stay the same. [ singing ] >> i have a dream ... martin luther king junior malcolm and, rosa parks - these are the icons of the civil rights movement familiar names and faces. there are many names and faces unrecognized. unsung heroes of the movement. we pave the way for african-americans in law enforcement in the entire nation and it should be. >> reporter: is the 23, leon jackson joint the st. petersburg police department. his biggest challenge at the time was not the community he was sworn to serve. it was the police force that
hired him. >> what was it like as a black police officer in the city of st. petersburg florida. >> we could not work in the right neighbourhood. we were unable to arrest whites could not hold any desk jobs at the police department. we could not take the sergeant's exam for a promotion. >> they could not go and arrest a white man or stop a white car in traffic even though they did something wrong. >> life-long resident wayne thompson passed the first baptiste institutional church. they were a centrepiece of the struggle for economy in st petersburg. going up in st. petersburg in the '60s was like being a part of two cities, one white and one back. at the time the civil right movement was in full swing. even the freedom writers
volunteered travelled there. there were only 15 plaque officers in the st. petersburg police force. the group took their grievances to the chief of police when he ignored their concerns 12 turned to the courts. >> there was an idea. i was the one saying that this man is not going to do anything. freddy crawford got angry, and i'm cleaning it up. freddy says "sue them", but i am cleaning up what he said. >> reporter: he had enough. >> yes, he had enough. it was unanimous. 12 out of 12 said let's file a lawsuit. >> reporter: right then and there. >> right then and there. >> reporter: speaking out could have cost them their jobs or worse, their lives. it was a risk they were willing to take.
they were known as the courageous 12. >> the original lawsuit - we paid for it out of our own pocket. we had families to take care. we had children in school homes to pay for. but what happened we sacrificed ourselves. remember now, we could have been fired. but we but everything on the line for the lawsuit. why put everything on the line. >> to pave the way for us and other black police officers in the nation. that's why we sacrifices so much. they lost the first round, but in 1968 a federal appeals court rules in their favour. the same year ming was assassinated. leon jackson became the first... >> a white officer trained me.
we were riding and he said "look" out of all the officers in the traffic bureau and all of them white, out of all the officers in a traffic bureau i'm the only one that great to work with you. they didn't want to work with the colour of a police officer. and i told them thank you for accepting the opportunity to work with me. you found out that i'm no different to any other police officer. >> reporter: leon says he had few problems on his assignment. they respected me. i approached them the way i expected anyone else to approach me, any police officer to approach me. i was fair. i was firm. >> reporter: today blacks serve at all levels of law
enforcements in st. petersburg. at the time you were not allowed to go to certain places and jobs. did you think you'd live to see a black president. >> i never thought i would live to see a black president. during that time i thought i would never live to see a black chief of police here in st. petersburg. and st. petersburg had one black chief now, and they had one previously black police chief. >> yet leon says he sees a familiar struggle 50 years after taking on the city. in places like ferguson, missouri, and mckenney texas. even though police departments were diverse, he and others wonder if black officers can lose touch with the people they observe. >> by the time we saw incidences against blacks it increase, and all to do with the fact that there may not be enough
sensitivy training to help officers handling cases involving race. if officers don't have a lack of respect, negates the ability to protect. despite recent events anthony hollio way says he will not about where it is. here we are today. we can patrol anywhere because of what they have done. i'm able to be the chief. here is 12 fep african-american guys saying we want to do more for the city. rebuilding the trust between the police and the community will take work. >> we say serve and protect. we have the protection part down. we have to figure out how to do the service. people believe that we are there to serve a healthy community. >> leon jackson is one of two
courageous 12 living much does that feel like a weight on your shoulders? >> it does. i hate to think about it. we were just like brothers. we was very close. very very close. >> although most of his fellow officers involved with the lawsuit are gone he vowed not to let them be forgotten. >> i'm the spokesman now. i'm the man that has to carry it on now. i'm the man that has to get it published. and believe me as long as i have breath in my body i am going to speak about it and that is "america tonight". tell us what you think at aljazeera.com/americatonight. you can talk to us on twitter and facebook and come back we'll have more of "america tonight"
here tomorrow. [ ♪♪ ] i'm "ali velshi on target", from high atop iran's capital city of tehran. >> a free world cannot allow iran to have a nuclear weapon. >> how much could nations trust the united states. >> this morning iran's president offered the same wild accusations against the united states. >> we seek a comprehensive diplomatic solution. >> this deal will not change iran for the better. >> a difficult and